Group 2 ready for battle
COULD this be the year VB Gold Group 2 ends years of under-achievement at representative level?
With the Country Rugby League championships beginning in Inverell this weekend, insiders claim this will be the best-prepared squad in many decades to pit its skills against other groups from around the state.
Group 2 rep co-ordinator Greg White said planning and preparation for this excursion began well before the final line-up was chosen.
“Since the middle of last year we’ve had a skeleton crew of coaches Peter Denham and Darren Leaney, head selector Maurie Lonergan, and myself, looking for the right candidates to fill 18 positions,” he said.
“Whenever we met up we’d compare notes and bounce possible selections off each other and get a framework happening as to how we’d run this show for the benefit of the players.
“In the old days, rep footy was more about bragging rights among officials but we’ve changed that to give ownership of the campaign to the blokes who are about to put their bodies on the line and in return, they’ve responded beyond all expectations.”
White said coaches Denham and Leaney had players “eating out of their hand” right from the initial training session.
“Pete and Daz have ‘been there-done that’ at the peak level and have treated the boys the way they wanted themselves to be treated,” he said.
“Training has been more like a get-together between mates with a run to finish and during the first session they went so hard we literally had to stand in front to slow them down so they didn’t hurt themselves.
“I can count on one hand the number of balls that have been dropped and probably the key to everything was Pete telling them not to back off against each other at club level.
“At no stage did we necessarily go looking for the best players in the competition ... we wanted blokes with certain personal qualities and a work ethic for football.
“And I’m confident we found them.”
Final training will be held tonight at Allen Gillett Oval with the side pitted against Bellinger Valley-Dorrigo’s under-18s in a light contact session.
“It will be a great confidence booster for the young Magpies and at the end the seniors will make a bit of a fuss of them and encourage them to emulate them in later years as rep players,” White said.
“When the 2010 exercise is finally over we want our blokes to go back to their clubs with the added reputation of being an elite player and be happy to spread the word that seeking to follow in their footsteps is desirable for every kid playing the game.”
This Saturday Group 2 will confront Group 11, made up of players in the region stretching from Dubbo to Cobar.
Other participants are the Castlereagh Cup side and Groups 3, 4 and 19.
Three winning sides and the best qualified runner-up from day one will play again on day two with the overall best sides to contest the finals later in future weeks.
“Right from the start the coach has looked no further than our first game against Group 11 and if they are better than us on the day, that’s the way it goes and we’ll head back home for the club round knowing we’ve given it our best shot,” White said.
“However, there’s a feeling of confidence I haven’t seen for a long, long time.
“I have no doubt this squad has the talent and mental attitude to take giant strides towards boosting the reputation of league in this region.”
GROUP 2 SQUAD
1 – Josh Bryant (Sawtell)
2 - Kieran Vale (Port Macquarie)
3 - Rob Toshack (Woolgoolga)
4 – Luke Cartwright (Macksville)
5 - Mark Pledger (Sawtell)
6 - Dan Russell (Bellinger Valley-Dorrigo)
7 - Jeremy Lang (Port Macquarie)
8 - Troy Grace (Macksville)
9 - Nathan Sherlock (Coffs Harbour)
10 - James Livock (Nambucca Heads)
11 - Wade Gerhard (Woolgoolga)
12 - Michael Bright (Port Macquarie)
13 - Joel Asher (Port Macquarie)
14 – Ryan O’Connor (Bellinger Valley-Dorrigo)
15 - Clark Webb (Orara Valley)
16 – Andy Miller (Coffs Harbour)
17 – Karl Younger (Coffs Harbour)
18 – Nathan Hardy (Orara Valley)
Coach: Peter Denham
Assistant coach: Darren Leaney
Manager: Stuart Kelly
We wanted blokes with certain personal qualities and a work ethic for football.